British Columbia’s abandoned mining towns are full of untold stories. Sometimes you just have to dig through some racist bullshit to find them.
That’s what anthropologist, historian and ghost town expert Laura Cuthbert told me—though admittedly in much politer terms—after a recent trip to Coalmont, Blakeburn and Granite City in the province’s southern interior. Once mining outposts populated by thousands of people, fires, mining accidents and rail contract changes left the settlements virtually empty by 1930.
Though the official plaques say white miners “struck it rich” at Granite City in 1885, there’s evidence Chinese miners were already working there for 25 years before. “The Chinese history in BC isn’t properly known. It isn’t in the BC Archives,” she told VICE. “There were all these families we’ll never really know the names of.”
The mine companies aren’t usually much help, Cuthbert says, as their records reflect hateful attitudes of the time. “Over the years, when I’ve been looking into deaths in mines, say if 40 people died, if five of them were white, it would list their full names and who their families were, and then sometimes it’s just slurs for the Chinese men,” she told VICE.
Cuthbert recalled coming across this at a similar abandoned open-pit mine in Quesnel Forks, where more than half the population was Chinese. “I think about that a lot—it’s not just their names that are missing, it’s literally nothing about them except that they’re Chinese,” she said. “It’s kind of scary to look at.”
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